Great sales execution requires complex problem solving and focused actions. The purpose of a sales methodology is to reduce the complexity in problem solving and to sharpen our focus so that we choose the best next actions that most quickly, get us to the close. The three keys to a sales methodology are as follows:
Common Language – We are more efficient when we have a common way to talk about things. That’s a general statement as well as a statement about selling. (For more on the importance of having a common way to discuss things, refer to How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey) A good sales methodology gives us that common way to talk about the sales process which helps us understand and communicate customer needs to stakeholders who are helping us win the business.
Categorizing Challenges – Pattern recognition is a problem solving tool used in business, sports, music, etc. Objections that we address during a sales process tend to fall in patterns that we can categorize in ways that make it simpler and quicker to find our best next action. For instance, if a customer is saying we’re too expensive or that the payback period is too long, we likely have a viability issue. We can now draw on knowledge and experiences focused on earning viability. We condense the total universe of potential next actions into things that specifically address viability. We shorten the steps of awareness, assessment and action.
Course Corrections – In any sales process, it’s easy to get off track. We often get mired in non-critical details or lose our focus due to internal operational requirements or other distractions. Very seldom do we have the luxury of being solely focused on a single sales opportunity so diversions are always around the corner. A sales methodology maps the path to a close. Mapping the path allows us to get back on track much quicker after we’ve been diverted. We’re more efficient and better able to manage multiple deliverables which make us more productive sellers.
It’s instructive to illustrate how The Five Abilities™ helped with one of our largest resellers. They had divided their sales into specialty groups focused on product categories. (e.g. personal computing, servers, productivity tools, etc.) They decided to change from product focus to customer focus by allowing each of their sales divisions (Enterprise, Small & Medium Business (SMB) and Consumer) to sell all products rather than forcing customers to navigate through product specialty teams. No longer would teams need to transfer calls to a product specialist. Instead they implemented the tools and incentives to motivate the sales people to learn and sell everything customers needed. The problem: They were working with our competition but not with us.
Their VP in charge told us our billing model made the new process hard to implement and they assumed we wouldn’t change it. Also sales incentives were considered critical to their plan and we had shared concern about incentive models in the past. They had done analysis based on our current practices and decided they couldn’t measure success by business group which made it impossible to motivate sales teams to focus on our products.
Of note, they weren’t asking for a price reduction and the incentives were funded by them but without group level billing they couldn’t attach incentives to how each team did. They didn’t lack confidence in our product offerings and they still considered us a reliable supplier. They simply didn’t think it was viable with our current billing system and they didn’t think we were capable of changing.
We now had the common language around VIABILITY and CAPABILITY, which were the categories we had to address to maintain the reseller’s focus on our products. We knew the course correction that would keep us on the optimal path of helping the customer buy from us. The result: The reseller’s sales increased as did ours.
Common language, categorizing challenges and a map to guide our course corrections, are what we get from a good sales methodology.
©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities™ LLC